(Italy/France - 1997; US release 2000)
Directed by Sergio Stivaletti. Written by Lucio Fulci and Daniele Stroppa. Cast: Robert Hossein, Romina Mondello, Riccardo Serventi Longhi, Gabriella Giorgelli, Aldo Massasso, Umberto Balli, Valery Valmond, Gianni Franco, Antonello Murru, Daniele Auber, Massimo Vanni, Omero Capanna, Goffredo Unger. (Unrated, 98 mins)
1997's THE WAX MASK began life as a heavily-hyped collaboration between Italian horror legends Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, the latter ailing and inactive since 1991's little-seen DOOR TO SILENCE, and far removed from his furiously prolific 1979-1984 glory days that gave us the likes of ZOMBIE, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, and THE BEYOND among others. After scrapping plans to make a new version of THE MUMMY, producer Argento and director Fulci settled on THE WAX MASK, a new take on the 1953 classic HOUSE OF WAX, itself a remake of 1933's MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, with some elements of Gaston Leroux's short story "The Waxworks Museum." The writing process and pre-production--delayed while Argento finished THE STENDHAL SYNDROME--brought numerous disagreements, with Fulci unexpectedly wanting to go for atmosphere, while Argento wanted more splatter, since that's what established Fulci's fame, but Fulci's already precarious health took another downturn and before filming could even begin, the Godfather of Gore died on March 13, 1996 of complications from his long battle with diabetes. With the script already written, Argento pressed forward as a tribute to Maestro Fulci, assigning directing duties to renowned makeup effects wizard Sergio Stivaletti, whose trailblazing work was a highlight of latter-day Italian horror classics like Argento's PHENOMENA, Lamberto Bava's DEMONS and DEMONS 2, and Michele Soavi's THE CHURCH, THE SECT, and CEMETERY MAN. Making his directing debut, Stivaletti was given some wide latitude by Argento to tailor the project to his own vision. As a result, he significantly reworked Fulci's initial script--written with Daniele Stroppa, with some uncredited contributions from Argento--and the end result is a bizarre hodgepodge of giallo, gothic horror, and steampunk, almost like HOUSE OF WAX and Mario Bava's BARON BLOOD mashed up with a looney tunes third act that veers unexpectedly into sci-fi territory.
Hossein--whose career dates back to 1948 and is still working today at 91--is appropriately sinister without hamming it up, though one wishes he would cut loose a little more, especially considering how batshit things get by the end.
|Actual shot from a film released in 1997